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tv   Inside Story  Al Jazeera  February 27, 2014 11:30am-12:01pm EST

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it's difficult to travel on the flooded roads, because you can't see underneath what's here and there's current. you need to be careful traveling in southern california. >> thank you for watching aljazeera america. i'm del walters. inside story's next. >> venezuela in tumult. venezuela after chavez. it's the inside story >> hello, i'm ray suarez. hugo chavez revolution had leveraged venezuela's enormous oil wealth by selling oil cheaply to caribbean neighbors and heavily subsidizing consumer
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kids for the masses at home. but the economy has not been performing. at the time of chavez's death last march it was predicted that they would have to devalue its currency, cut back on policies and many airline carriers have suspended their flights to venezuela. nicolás maduro, vice president who had taken power after chav chavez's long battle with cancer was elected in his own right. but now after less than a year in charge, conflicts have turned violent and deadly. demeanor straighters on the streets of caracas are demanding change .
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throwing stones and setting up roadblocks protesters have been gathering for weeks in what has become the largest anti-government movement in a decade. >> venezuela is waking up. enough of so much insecuritity, so much oppression . >> beyond the protests and below the surface lies a country on the verge of a breakdown and on the brink of a political crisis. venezuela sits on top of the world's largest oil reserves. subsidized by oil revenue anti-poverty programs were commissioned by the previous president, the charismatic and anti-american hugo chavez. some say that these policies are the root of the problems of venezuela. inflation rates hover around 56 percent. economists blame the currency
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controls that have limited imports and spurring the protests growing frustration over scarcity of basic goods like milk and toilet paper as well as the country's high violent crime. venezuela has the highest homicide rate in sout south america. president nicolás maduro was elected in by a margin. he maintains a great deal of support even now. >> we call for peace. the opposition will not achieve their goal because the government is in power until 2021. we are here in a peaceful protest. >> also taking to the streets are pro-government demonstrators who condemn the convenient violence and publicly embrace their president. [ gunfire ] >> meanwhile many are outraged
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by maduro's response to public dissent. he has deployed soldiers to the streets and resorted to name calling. >> they have said that they were going to go to the streets, and they were not going to leave the streets until maduro resigns. i want to say to the crazy fascists that maduro row will not resign. >> he has created a media blackout creating a monopoly . it has been limited during the most intense days of the clashes. >> brothers, i ask that we, that everyone here and every venezuelan who wants change, that we instruct ourselves, gather ourselves, organize ourselves and hold non-violent protest. those who want change without hurting others, i ask you not to lose faith. >> 45 people have been detained,
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including long-time antagonist and opposition leader leopold lopez, the former presidential candidate and charismatic leader of the anti-movement lopez turned himself in after ma doctor row accused him of inciting the protests. >> through meaningful dialogue with them. not with the united states. despite what they would like to lead people to believe, this is not an u.s.-venezuela issue. this is an issue between venezuela and it's people. >> reporter: in an exchange of diplomatic barbs maduro evicted three diplomats and u.s. in turn expelled three diplomats from the states. despite the diplomatic scrabble the president said he plans to nominate a new ambassador to
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washington, a post that has not been filled since 2008. >> as we all know young people here have an uncertain future, we're protesting against that uncertainty, protesting like we did yesterday, and like we will do tomorrow and the day after, demonstrating in the streets. >> rapidly expanding from a student protest that began earlier this month in the western city, demonstrators are demanding the resignation of president maduro . using a heavy hand, another opposition leader spurned an opportunity to immediate with maduro monday. maduro called for the gathering of mayors and governors. caprila said he wants no association with the sinkingship that is the current government.
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>> i'm not going to a meeting with the federal council to help him save face. i'm not going to be like the orchestra on the titanic. i'm not the musician on the boat that is sinking. i'm the one playing the musk? no, nicolas, you're not going to use me. >> maduro is calling on lawmakers, union leaders, clergy and other groups to join in a peace conference wednesday. he wants leaders from social, political and religious groups to sign an agreement denouncing the violence while asking the venezuelan parliament to look into protesters' demands. >> the maduro government response and possible responses to the convict we have former venezuelan congressman who
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opposes the maduro government. and from new york, assistant professor of latin american studies at new york university. author of the book "weapon as powerful as the vote: urban protests and electoral politics in venezuela." and director of international programs at the center of economic and policy research. what elements of venezuela society, what do they want? >> fundamentally, where the youth, the students, this all basically started on early january when students were protesting for situations relating to their own safety, for their own security in the streets. things got out of hand right there with
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a level of expression until we arrived on the february 12th, which is the national day of the youth in venezuela. we celebrate that day for the independence movement, and it's every year that there is a celebration regarding that. your introduction set forth the scenario. the scareties in the interior of the country is much higher than in the city. then the over all level of violence in the country. last year between 25,000 to 27,000 homicide accounted according to official figures. the situation of insecurity in the country is significant. the context of these students where most of them present their demands and then repressions
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started to follow and repression generated another form of reaction from the students and it's been ongoing in the streets. the opposition leaders i would say the core or fundamental structure of the opposition reunited is bisquely putting conditions to initiate a national dialogue if possible in a mediation to discuss a number of issues important for the re-establishment of country, and the release of leopold lopez and other detain detainees , many have denounced the brutality
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. >> pictures can obscure muc as much as they show. does he still enjoy leadership in venezuela. >> the majority of venezuelaens did vote for him last year in an election that was considered by the carter center to be one of the most free and fair. electoral systems of any country in the world. and there were elections after that that happened just two months ago in which the opposition said this time we're going to do it, and we'll gain the majority in the municipal elections, and the government won again by a ten-point margin. this is just two months ago. >> so a bigger margin than the presidential election. >> even a bigger margin than the presidential election. you have to look at the last 10-15 years and understand that poverty has been reduced by half, extreme poverty by 70%. it's considered the least unequal country in latin
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america. there have been bountiful gains for the entire population through economic growth but especially for the vast majority of the country that is poor, that was so excluded from previous governments that people are not just going to throw that away, it seems, because of some shortages and the inflation problems which obviously are real. they have elected him again. they have elected the government party again in the local elections, and now we're seeing a replay of the strategies that the opposition has used many times. unfortunately in the past when they resorted to to rebellion and provoking a crisis in the country, to provoke a violent response and get rid of the government. they did that in 2002. they tried to do it with the
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coup, the oil strike in '0 '03, and now we're seeing this portrayed as this huge event of violence. it's terrible what is going on there right now, but it's important to say that we let me lament the loss of life of any person. but those who were killed many were innocent bystanders when they were beheaded by the wires that the opposition is placing across the roads or a person who was not able to get to the hospital and died in an ambulance because of the block cases. it's one thing to say well, let's have peaceful protests because we have grievances, and every democracy should have that, but this is rock slowing and molotov cocktails and violent activities that they're trying to provoke regime change.
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>> we have to take a quick break. when we return we'll talk about widening the picture, not just the last two weeks but a longer view of venezuela's recent past. stay with us. this is "inside story."
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>> welcome back to "inside story." all this week we've been looking at big news happening in our hemisphere. on monday it was the arrest of cartel leader joaquin guzman in mexico. and on this addition of the program the rising tide of discontent in venezuela. we're continuing our discussion with debra james, alejandro velazquez and mr. martinez. is this an important way to talk back to the government, to express the people's power? >> yes, absolutely.
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this is an historic form of popular expression. it goes back to 1958 when the democratic system began. and it's a way for when not feeling like they're heard by the state to take to the streets and make their grievances heard that way. >> do they hand on power to another politician? >> the constitution was amended in the presidency of hugo chavez to allow for immediate re-election, and of course chavez did garner popular support which allowed him to continue to run for office. the tradition is strong in venezuela.
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>> both by supporters of the current government and by its opponents . having to do with the social economic situation, which grave, and having to do with the correlation is very weak. the lack of leadership in the government and lack of leadership in the opposition means that discontent on the one hand and support for the government are in some ways not able to be channeled. and that leads to the kind of tensions that we see. >> debra james before the break you were talking about the
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reduction of value of the national currency. they have tried to put in price control that has led to shortage of consumer goods. is this a country that is being run economically when it sits on an ocean of oil. >> they have not had good economic performance in the last couple of years as they did from the period from when chavez was able to take control. they actually didn't have any ability to control that. from that period then until the great recession happened, they had extraordinary economic growth. they had some of the best economic growth in the entire hemisphere, and since then it's been unfortunate that they actually followed a very conservative path. many people don't know but they under stimulated their economy
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during the recession, and were extremely hard hit almost to the same level as mexico where the rest of south america did a lot of more stimulus, and they've been struggling ever since. they were able to recover. they got out of the recession, and they certainly have economic problems now. we have done many papers on this and argue that they should not have this sort of exchange controls that they do right now. some how it becomes okay to destroy the city, throw molotov cocktails and overthrow the government. >> should venezuela be a wealthier country? >> sure it should. we have seen an average level of growth so low that we are under going. last year growth was almost 1%. this year is possibly going to be negative.
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even in the best years of growth the regime has shown growth has been low compared to the bo nan i bonanzathat the oil industry has brought to the country. this is a situation why the government engaged in massive destruction of th of venezuela. they have industries that were working well, and some that were exporters, alternative exporters of oil, industries like the industries in the cement sector. today they're down the drain. venezuela for all its history was either an exporter of coffee or efficient in the coffee sector.
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today we're importing coffee. why? what is going on in venezuela the government of chavez was able to promote certain policies that had a social impact based on the mental ly i am pop ulism. let me give you some numbers just to place the discussion where it needs to be. venezuela today is only cashing all exports to the united states and perhaps india in the amount of 800,000 barrels per day. the rest goes to the cuban agreement we have put together to repay that for the chinese, and production of oil in venezuela has declined since the government controlled the oil industry from 3.5 million barrels per day to
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2.2 millions of barrels per day. this is a mismanaged country. they have to take stock of that. >> we look at how to move forward by what is by common consent a very deeply divided economy. stay with us.
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there's more to it. >> welcome back to inside story. i'm ray suarez. the eyes of the world are on venezuela right now. watching to see if the up rising there begun among students will take hold among the wider populous and continue to put pressure on president maduro. are we looking at an situation that could escalate that maduro could suffer the same fate as other presidents viktor yanukovych and mohamed morsi? >> i don't see that in the
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horizon, and the answer to that is embedded in your question. this is precisely the lack of connection between the opposition primarily middle class and popular sectors that continue to support the government. it has primarily to do, if i could build on what mr. martinez said earlier, even though the country is suffering from economic problems that are quite real, in fact, it's not quite true to suggest that before chavez came to office in 1999 the economy was not also mismanaged and very conditions that allow for the populism that was suggested, but the distribution of oil wealth created high levels of poverty which under
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chavez were reduced. i believe the hope remains high primarily because the opposition crafts a message that reaches these popular sectors, and build a majority on that basis. >> mr. martinez and ms. james, we have very little time left, but i want your best thinking on what happens in the near term. these are two forces that are seen in fundamentally different ways. where do we go from here? >> i think there is room for dialogue. if you stop the recession which is the only discussion that they have put together, and then embrace an agenda that include a number of issues, some of it has to do with the cooperation of the private sector with the economic front. and some has to do with the release of political detainees. and the re-establishment of the independence of powers in the venezuela system. there are
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the reason that it has not taken place is because they lack the majority. the same is true with the comptroller of the nation. you have a number of things that could be done to establish trust of the people in the institutions and continue looking forward that both parties have with respect with what to do with venezuela. >> ms. james? >> i would say that it would be very important for those out on the streets creating mayhem to look at something they can do to move forward rather than focusing on destruction in their neighborhood. they need to put away the molotov cocktails. i don't think you're going to see action on behalf of the government if there are not folks out there trying to create destruction of property. you cannot allow the streets to be blocked for such a long period of time. there needs to be on what have
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of the leadership of the opposition more calls for stopping the violence, for stopping the kind of activities that their side has been engaged in. we need to see it on behalf of the government. obviously prosecution on any side who have committed any act of human rights abuses. but there needs to be dialogue, and it's important--it was a bad step, i think-- >> peace and stop incorporating all power in just a few hands. >> and the leaders to be able to dialogue and not reject the opportunity that the government has put forward to dialogue. >> quick comment, professor? >> i agree that the conditions are there for dialogue and you have some productive positions for mayors and government. i think the signs are positive in that direction. >> to
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my guests , thank you all. that brings us to the end of this edition of inside story in washington. i'm ray suarez. >> welcome to al jazeera america. i'm del walters and here are the stories we are following, the ukraine moving forward. the first lady is taking on food labels. a global day of action, demanding the release of the journalists from egypt.
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